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Same-sex marriages may be happening in North Carolina — thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court’s refusal to review the Fourth Circuit’s Bostic decision, allowing such marriages — but one day soon that might change, Lieutenant Gov. Dan Forest suggests in a recent blog post on his website.

In the article (written under his signature but posted by Kami Mueller), the lieutenant governor defends his position that the states, and not the federal government, have the sole constitutional authority to make decisions about marriage.

A majority of justices have said as much, Forest adds, pointing to language from Justice Anthony Kennedy in the high court’s 2013 U.S. v. Windsor decision and agreed to by the court’s liberal justices (Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan):

The recognition of civil marriages is central to state domestic relations law applicable to its residents and citizens. The definition of marriage is the foundation of the State’s broader authority to regulate the subject of domestic relations with respect to the “[p]rotection of offspring, property interests, and the enforcement of marital responsibilities.”

Consistent with this allocation of authority, the Federal Government, through our history, has deferred to state-law policy decisions with respect to domestic relations. . ..

With those words, Forest offers hope that the high court may yet take up a marriage equality case and reverse the tide of same-sex marriages now sweeping the country.

But Forest apparently overlooked Kennedy’s words immediately preceding the quote above, in which the justice points out as a given that state marriage laws must respect a person’s constitutional rights:

In order to assess the validity of that intervention it is necessary to discuss the extent of the state power and authority over marriage as a matter of history and tradition. State laws defining and regulating marriage, of course, must respect the constitutional rights of persons, see, e.g., Loving v. Virginia . . . 
And the lieutenant governor may have also forgotten this:  Only four justices need to agree to take a case. If those on the court’s conservative wing (Chief Justice John Roberts, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito) were intent on taking up the marriage equality issue and perhaps tipping their hats to states’ rights, they could have done so in Bostic.
Commentary

As reported on N.C. Policy Watch recently, some advocates on the far right — including North Carolina’s own Lt. Governor — have been pushing the radical idea of late that it’s time for a second American constitutional convention.

For those who haven’t given the idea much thought, the dangers that would accompany such a move may not be readily apparent. Thankfully, veteran national policy analyst Robert Greenstein of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities explained them in a recent column for the Washington Post.

As Greenstein noted, such an event could be a disastrous free-for-all:

The Constitution sets no rules for how a constitutional convention would work. What standards determine whether 34 states have called for a convention? Do all resolutions that state legislatures have ever passed count — even if they called for conventions on very different topics, or were passed 50 or 100 years ago, or were later rescinded, as some have been? Oklahoma, for instance, passed a resolution in 1976 calling for a convention but rescinded it in 2009, citing concerns about throwing the Constitution wide open to unknown changes; some proponents argue that Oklahoma should still count anyway. Can that be right? The Constitution is silent on all of these issues.

That’s just the start.  If a convention were called, how many delegates would each state get, and how would they be selected? How long could the convention last? The Constitution provides no guidance on those questions either.

He continued: Read More

Commentary

Though his background is in architecture, North Carolina Lt. Gov. Dan Forest certainly does seem to fancy himself quite the constitutional law expert. Lately, he’s been tooling around the state with a far right activist who wants to rewrite the U.S. Constitution to return the country to the 18th Century by, essentially, giving the state’s the right to nullify federal laws with which they disagree.

Now, this morning, Prof. Forest has treated the visitors to his website with a cocksure lecture about how the North Carolina  Supreme Court should purport to defy the federal courts and, in effect, nullify their recent rulings on marriage equality. According to Counselor Forest, this will somehow force a “showdown” in the U.S. Supreme Court on the issue.

Maybe Forest has been talking with his buddy and fellow ideologue, Supreme Court Justice Paul Newby, but whatever the source of his latest daft and inappropriate missive, let’s hope he keeps churning them out. After all, as long as we’re talking about “showdowns” in North Carolina public policy, it will be helpful for as many as possible to know that the state’s second-highest elected official is echoing the pro-discrimination/states’ rights values of George Wallace, Lester Maddox and the other mid-20th Century bigots.

Commentary
Senator Richard Burr

Senator Richard Burr

In case you missed it, it’s worth noting that Senator Richard Burr uttered some eminently reasonable words yesterday when pressed for a comment on the judge who struck down North Carolina’s  unconstitutional ban on same-sex marriage, U.S. District Court Judge Max Cogburn of the state Western District. Burr, of course, voted for Cogburn’s confirmation which was unanimously approved.

You can watch the WNCN.com video by clicking here, but here is a transcript:

“We try to put the most qualified individuals on the bench. I have no questions that Max Cogburn met that qualification threshold for me. And…uh…I think it’s once again proof that you can’t…uh..envision every decision that a judge is gonna’ make and that’s why putting folks that have the right experience on the bench is absolutely crucial.”

Dan Forest

Lt. Gov. Dan Forest

In other words, those spewing absurd and incendiary comments like North Carolina’s Lieutentant Governor (who called Cogburn’s simple and rational decision applying the precedents dictated by the courts above him “the judicial fiat of one unelected man”) would do well to clam up and take a civics lesson.

Now, if Burr would just apply his own words by: a) halting his ridiculous and completely unexplained, one-man blockade of President Obama’s appointment of federal prosecutor Jennifer May-Parker to serve as the first African-American judge in the history of North Carolina’s Eastern District and b) condemning Forest for his ridiculous and inflammatory pandering, we might just get somewhere.

Commentary

Dan ForestNorth Carolina’s Lieutenant Governor Dan Forest appears to be emerging as the most visible and outspoken opponent of LGBT equality in North Carolina. Forest, who has long been closely associated with the religious hard right, issued a formal statement over the weekend in which he castigated the decision of U.S. District Court Judge Max Cogburn striking down North Carolina’s marriage discrimination law as a case of “an unelected federal judge violat[ing] the foundational principles of this great nation.”

Forest’s statement goes on to give voice to some of the extreme, anti-federal government language that should be familiar to those who have studied the efforts of the mid-20th Century “state’s rights” movement and that has, in more recent times, come to be associated with fringe Tea Party groups that question the basic legitimacy of the present-day federal government:

“The courts have essentially stated that a man ‘marrying’ another man, or a woman another woman, is rooted in our nation’s traditions and history, inferring that states have no interest in the preservation of marriage as an exclusive union between a man and a woman. This strains credulity.

Our people will either submit themselves fully to a federal oligarchy of unelected judges or stand up and proclaim that federalism is alive and well. I hope that you will join me in standing against judicial tyranny, and fight to restore the balance of power intended in the Constitution of the United States.”

Meanwhile, Gov. Pat McCrory issued a statement that said the following:

“The administration is moving forward with the execution of the court’s ruling and will continue to do so unless otherwise notified by the courts. Each agency will work through the implications of the court’s ruling regarding its operations.”